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I Have to Be Perfect

Aarin Harper

Being an MK [missionary kid, or PK, pastor's kid] is a lot like being a white lab rat; everybody observes you, pokes at you, tests you, measures you, surveys you, but nobody wants to climb inside the cage and be your friend.  No one is really able to see the world from your vantage point.  No one is willing to touch the world that touches you or even listens to you describe it.  Well, I’m already in the cage.  Care to join me? - Timothy Sanford

I Have to Be Perfect was written to adult children of ministers, missionaries, and leaders in faith communities to address the misconceptions about what is expected of us. This book is for anyone that believes they "have to be perfect". 

We chose I Have to Be Perfect, by Timothy Sanford, to be one of our resources because perfectionism seems epidemic and studies have shown it is maladaptive and unproductive.

It may seem to us that parents and others expect perfection from us. In our minds this idea that perfection is required of us is often misconstrued; and necessary adjustments are not made as we grow into adulthood.  Why do we fall into this thinking trap? Tim reveals and debunks some of the myths that we often believe about our roles, and gives practical steps for how to face and edit those beliefs. Getting our perspective correct regarding perfectionism is vital to learning to live life well!  Perfectionism is not just something we burden ourselves with - often times we put this loaded expectation on those closest to us. 

“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” 
― Michael Law (Author)

The Association for Psychological Science (APS) reports that striving for excellence, as compared to striving to be perfect, results in greater success and better health. Perfectionism paralyzes conscientiousness and the pursuit of excellence results in well-being. For more on this you can read the article, "The Price of Perfectionism" by Gordon Flett.1

From another article addressing male suicides in the UK:

"If you’re a social perfectionist, you tend to identify closely with the roles and responsibilities you believe you have in life. It’s not about what you expect of yourself,” O’Connor explains. “It’s what you think other people expect. You’ve let others down because you’ve failed to be a good father or a good brother – whatever it is.”

Because it’s a judgment on other people’s imagined judgments of you, it can be especially toxic. “It’s nothing to do with what those people actually think of you,” he says. “It’s what you think they expect. The reason it’s so problematic is that it’s outside your control.”2

If you are a pastor's kid, or missionary's kid, or know someone who is, this book is a great resource and will help you work through some important issues. You can purchase the ebook version through Amazon here

We would love to hear from you! Are you a perfectionist or have perfectionism tendencies? Do you view perfectionism as a "badge of honor"? Do you expect others to be perfect? If we lived life in pursuit of excellence, rather than perfection, what might we experience differently?


1. "The Price of Perfectionism", by Gordon Flett, Vol. 25, No. 3 March, 2012, www.psychologicalscience.org.

2. The male suicides: how social perfectionism kills, 12 May 2015, Mosaicscience.com.